BEIRUT: On the first day of Lebanon’s new government, a clash occurred between the former acting minister of foreign affairs, Zeina Akar, and the director general of the ministry, Hani Shmaitly.
Shmaitly was attacked and his office damaged after he refused to hand Akar the ministry’s mail, because she is no longer entitled to access, according to the Lebanese constitution.
A source from the ministry said that Akar arrived at the ministry’s building, accompanied by security guards from the Lebanese army — she was also the defense minister before the previous government resigned. She asked for access to the ministry’s mail on the pretext that she had not yet handed over her tasks to the new minister. When Shmaitly denied her request her bodyguards broke down his office’s door and caused damaged inside. Akar then tried to gain access to the ministry’s mail.
Employees at the ministry have protested over what happened.
Sources close to Akar said she went to the ministry to complete her handover and to thank the employees and bid them farewell. “But Shmaitly asked her not to speak to the employees in his absence because it goes against the constitution, whereupon Akar gave her orders to open the door.”
During the first ministerial session since the government’s formation on Monday, President Michel Aoun urged the new government “not to waste any time.”
He said: “The Lebanese as well as foreign countries are counting on us to tackle the accumulated and overlapping crises in Lebanon. The more seriousness and determination we show, the more support these countries will show us.”
The government of PM Najib Mikati, which was formed after months of conflicts over ministerial portfolios, set up a committee to prepare the ministerial statement, based on which the government will seek a vote of confidence.
Aoun said during the session: “This is the fourth government to be formed during my presidency. It was formed 13 months after the resignation of the caretaker government. During this period, the situation has worsened economically, financially and socially and the living conditions of the Lebanese has deteriorated in an unprecedented way. We have major historical and national responsibilities to activate the role of the state and its institutions and restore confidence in them. We no longer have the luxury of procrastination. What is needed is to find speedy solutions to tackle the living conditions and to put Lebanon on the path to rescue.”
Mikati said “the situation requires exceptional measures.” He said: “It is true that we do not have a magic wand. The situation is extremely critical. But with firm will and solid determination and planning, we can achieve the hopes of our suffering people.”
He said that his government “will work for of all the Lebanese, without discrimination between the supporters and opponents of the government, between those who voiced their support for us and those who did not, or those who will grant the government confidence in a few days and those who will not.”
Mikati’s government is supposed to last eight months, until May 2022; the date set for the parliamentary elections. The government was born in a critical period, where crises are emerging daily, the worst being the fuel crisis, where importing companies have recently announced that the dwindling fuel reserves have reached crucial levels.
Minister of the Environment Dr. Nasser Yassin told Arab News: “The government’s goal is to extinguish the fires, especially those related to subsidies on fuel, power and medicine.”
He said the next step is to “better manage the crisis and open up to the international community.”
“The government will act as one team, and the meetings held at the weekend showed that everyone is ready to cooperate to achieve the government’s mission. The country is in an emergency state, and we need urgent accomplishments to tackle the critical issues.”
The handover between the new ministers and the ministers of the caretaker government is expected to take place by Wednesday.